‘Give me a microphone and music, and I fly’
Photos by Stas Arkhangelski
I heard about Michaela Steinhauer, a German singer and songwriter through a Russian jazz buff friend of mine. Interesting I thought, but she’s probably not very good, being a foreigner, at least not up to the high standards of Russian jazz vocalists that I have heard about. I couldn’t have been more wrong. ‘She’s good’ I thought, when I saw her at the Bluebird cafe in August. ‘She’s very good’, in fact, I thought towards the end of her set, which included “I Thought About You” (Jimmy van Heusen, Johnny Mercer), “Angel Eyes” (Matt Dennis, Earl Brand)), and an improvisation based on “Love for Sale” (Cole Porter).
Judging by the reaction from the audience, Michaela has a following here in Moscow. She is a self-confessed performance addict “give me a microphone and music, and I fly”, she told me. She exudes a great deal of emotional energy, and sings hard, punching the notes with force, displaying considerable vocal range. After the performance, she told me her story.
“I’ve been singing all my life, my grandma said that I sang before I could walk. I’ve been playing the piano since I was 9. I studied economics and business administration at the university of Mainz. It was very hard, I had 2 children. My husband bought me a piano, I took lessons. We built a house.
“I came here because my husband got a job in a bank in Moscow in 1999. I made a deal with him ‘if I go there, I want to be able to do what I want’. I got much more into music. In Germany it was a hobby. Now I perform and even teach vocals – at the Gershwin college. My husband has been very supportive.
“I both love and hate Russia. I love its music and creativity, but I hate its chaos and dirt. Living here has made me a better musician than if I had stayed in Germany. I have been fortunate to have had good teachers ,like Irina Tamaeva, Inga Yannik and Misha Okun, and then I had the chance of attending master classes with people like Deborah John Harrison Photos by Stas Arkhangelski ‘Give me a microphone and music, and I fly’ Brown, Miles Griffith and J.D. Walter, who I probably would never have met in Germany. Russian jazz is life, jazz is a part of everybody who performs it.
“People have begun to listen to my music here. I am the German in Russia. In Germany I am the Russian, it makes me easier to get in touch with people. They use me as a kind of link. But I have become more German living here. I thank the Lord for being able to be here, for my music, for everything.
“Russia is very much what you make it. I came here with 3 children, I know a lot of women out there who just sit and complain. Sure, because I am a foreigner it is easier for me. But let’s face it, no promoter or agency nowadays is going to take you on just because you have a foreign passport.
Michaela’s next concerts will be on October 13 at Le Club at 8.30pm, entrance fee 400 rubles. and on the 27th at the Bluebird at 20:30 (300 Rbls). Michaela has a CD out ‘MISHA with a bit of your love’, available from www.rodensteinrecords.de and www.amazon.de. She has just finished recording of a second CD of her own songs at the studio of Theatre Pavel Slobodkino with the Jakov Okun Trio.
Her web site is: www.misha-jazz.com